Last week’s Dunlop tyre test at Snetterton gave teams the opportunity to tinker with the car outside of the time pressures of a race weekend and several took the chance to give some hot prospects a first run in a Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship machine around the Nofolk circuit.
Firstly, Power Maxed Racing handed a drive in one if its Chevrolets to Volkswagen Racing Cup leader Bobby Thompson. PMR hope that its Young Driver Program, introduced earlier this year, will act as a pathway for future BTCC stars.
“It was my first time in the car so the morning up until lunch was more or less just to get a feel of the car,” said Thompson. “I’ve never driven something quite like this.
“I’ve been in something vaguely similar, in the VW Cup, with it being front-wheel drive but the BTCC car has a lot more power and a lot more grip through the corners.
“The car’s a lot softer than what I’m used to and it carries so much more corner speed which is immediately obvious. It’s very quick in a straight line too and it’s a lot better using a sequential gearbox rather than have to fight for a gear all the time.
“We weren’t exactly putting times in, as I was still learning the track and the car.
“We’re leading the championship in the VW Cup. I was giving good feedback in that championship and they wanted to see if I could do it in the touring car. More eyes are better than none so it’s another driver to give more feedback in the touring car and see how I get on.”
Power Maxed Racing Team Principal, Adam Weaver said: “Bobby has shone this year for us in the VW Cup, and I believe in rewarding his hard work and talent with the chance to test a BTCC car. Bobby’s attitude, skill and personality are exactly what we are looking for in a driver, and we believe he will go a long way.”
The next young gun to test was Renault UK Clio Cup UK leader Ant Whorton-Eales, who Team HARD has given the opportunity of a drive in one of its Toyota Avensis’ in testing at Snetterton on Thursday.
The 22-year-old’s link up with Tony Gilham’s outfit was part of a tie-in with JamSport Racing aimed at nurturing young talent in British motor sport.
“It’s been mega,” Whorton-Eales. “We had one new set of tyres in the morning which was the first time I’d been on new tyres all the way round a car because in Clios we only concentrate on the fronts.
“We seemed to be really strong in the speed traps and coming off the corners and I think I’ve developed that technique racing in Clios for so long – our corner exits are very important.
“I was a bit of time here and there through the fast corners because we’re not quite carrying the speed yet. You underestimate just how much grip there is in these cars. When it does break traction though it breaks fast and you soon run out of tarmac.
“It’s something I had always wanted to do – I’ve always wanted to have a go in a touring car and Tony (Gilham) has given me the chance. I’m here again in Clios in a couple of weeks so it’s a bit of track time as well. Whether it will lead anywhere who knows, great if it does.”
Lastly, Maximum Motorsport handed a drive to Dennis Strandberg. Most recently, the young Swede had driven for Academy Motorsport in an Aston Martin GT4 yielding third overall in British GT.
“I did a race with Maximum Motorsport in the VAG Trophy which was my first ever experience in a front-wheel drive car, so this is my second time in a front-wheel drive car,” said Strandberg.
“It felt pretty good. They gave me the opportunity to come and test here and I’m pretty pleased about it. I’m hoping to do a bit better than I’ve done so far but I’m just having thirty more minutes this afternoon.
“It’s completely different to anything I’ve ever driven before. I’ve driven a few cars but nothing like this. It’s a good car. It feels like a proper race car. I’m used to rear-wheel drive cars so my driving style is very much rear wheel drive. I’m getting there and I know there is time in the car and in me.
“This year I’m doing races here and there. I did British GT last year and I’m looking to a possible BTCC drive next year as well as GTs or maybe a drive back in Sweden. I have taken today to test everything out to see if I’m good enough so we’ll see and time will tell.”
As far as times go, it’s always difficult to draw comparisons in testing but it was Whorton-Eales that set the best with a 1:58.012 edging Thompson’s best effort by 0.015s. Strandberg’s time in the car was limited, leaving early in the afternoon to make further racing commitments in Belgium.